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January 2011

January 31, 2011

A couple of years ago I was asked to submit an article to Compassion International’s magazine. The article was to answer a single question: What is the greatest hindrance to the gospel today? I stumbled across that article today and thought I would share it with you.


You know the oft-told story, I am sure. G.K. Chesterton, along with other prominent authors of his day, was asked by The Times to answer this question: “What’s Wrong with the World?” His answer was beautiful in its simplicity and brilliant in its profundity.

Dear Sirs,
I am.
Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton

As I ponder the greatest hindrances to the gospel today, I can’t help but feel that Chesteron’s words are applicable to this question, too. And yet, at the same time, I feel as if they are wrong; dead wrong.

I Am

I, as a Christian, hinder the spread of the gospel and hinder its power in the world.

I hinder the gospel when I lose confidence in the gospel—in the powerful simplicity of the good news that Jesus Christ has died to save sinners. Our age has seen more gospel innovation than any other. We have unprecedented access to programs, teachings and technologies that claim to be able to further the gospel’s spread. But how easy it is to find that my confidence is in the programs or in the teachers or in the technologies, rather than in the gospel message itself. How quick I am to prefer my own message and my own methods above those given to me by God.

I hinder the gospel when what I do fails to match what I say. When I claim to follow Christ but allow my actions to betray my words, a watching world scoffs at the gospel, and rightly so. When I claim to have been transformed by God’s grace but live as if God has made no change at all, I cause others to heap contempt on the gospel. Robert Robinson said this so eloquently in his great hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing:” “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” Living in the constant tension of being both saint and sinner, I am prone to wander away from the One I love; prone to live as if He is nothing to me. And in this I hinder the gospel.

I Am Not

From my human perspective, I am the greatest hindrance to the gospel. But the Bible tells me to look higher. It tells me with glorious clarity that nothing, no one, is able to hinder the gospel. It tells me to place my confidence in the God whose plans cannot be stopped. My lack of confidence in the gospel, my indifference to it, and my unfaithfulness in spreading it, cannot truly hinder the work of God. God reigns supreme over all.

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34b-35)

Not one person who truly seeks after God will be hindered from embracing Christ as Lord and Savior. Christ, the Good Shepherd, has sent His Spirit to gather a people to himself. Christ knows his own and his own know him. He will draw them to himself and not one will be lost; not one can be lost. Far be it from me to think that I can stand in the way of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that was and is and ever will be.

What is the greatest hindrance to the gospel today? I am, but nothing is. God reigns supreme.

January 31, 2011

Last week I went to the eye doctor and then bought a new pair of glasses. Suddenly I can see things. And now I’m asking myself why exactly it was that I allowed myself to see poorly for the last 2 years. Or as comedian Brian Regan puts it, “How can instantly improved vision NOT be at the top of your to-do list?”

Art, Nakedness and Redemption - This is a very good article written by William VanDoodewaard and taking issue with Christians who feel that nudity in art is permissible and/or praiseworthy.

The Last Temptation of Ted - GQ has a long story about Ted Haggard. It’s a sad story of a man who just refuses to acknolwedge that he is unsuited for ministry and who is sliding further into the mess he has created. Note: the story gets a little bit graphic at times.

Egypt Explodes - Gene Veith asks a few useful questions about the current situation in Egypt.

Lincoln’s Other Mother - “Stepmother” can be a fraught phrase in the telling of childhood stories — one thinks of Cinderella and the well-named Brothers Grimm — yet it was a very good day for Lincoln when she came into his life. (HT:TW)

The Sexualization of Youth - This article from the Telegraph has some very insightful things to say about the increased sexualization of children. “So far the debate over the sexualisation of children has centred primarily on quantitative questions. Are our young people being exposed to too much sex? Does this exposure happen at too young of an age? … What I find interesting, however, is that by framing the debate solely in terms of the above questions, the discussion has excluded crucial qualitative distinctions we need to be making.”

Mass Defection - This seems like an inevitable outcome of the Church of England’s moral decline: “Hundreds of disillusioned Anglicans were preparing Sunday to defect from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church in time for Lent, Sky News reported.”

Deepak Chopra Gets Owned - One little comment exposes his folly.

I have never yet known the Spirit of God to work where the Lord’s people were divided.D.L. Moody

January 30, 2011

Because of all I’ve written about pornography over the past few years, I was interested to see a recent prayer that Scotty Smith posted at his blog. He titled it “A Prayer for Friends Struggling with Pornography.” Here it is:

Jesus, my heart goes out today for friends and their spouses whose lives are being assaulted by the ravaging and enslaving grip of pornography.  I know of no other power sufficient for the task but the gospel. This is why I run to you today with grave concern, but also with great hope.

O Lord of resurrection and redemption, bring your mercy and might to bear in stunning fashion. Things impossible for us are more than possible for you. You have come to set captives free and to heal the brokenhearted. Pornography is creating an over abundance of both.

Jesus, for friends somewhere in the pornography continuum of titillation to addiction, we ask you to reveal yourself in the deepest place of their hearts. We ask for the holy gift of godly sorrow, not the short-lived remorse of worldly sorrow. For your non-condemning love has great power to deliver those who cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body which is subject to death?”

Lead them to that cry, Jesus. They need a lot more than embarrassment and fear, they need contrition and hope. Where pornography has desensitized our friends, re-sensitize them so they can see and feel the horror of their entrapment, and more so… much more so, the wonder of your deliverance.

For our friends who are married to someone in the talons of pornography, dear Jesus, theirs may be the greater pain and struggle. No one but you can help them with the anger, the disgust, the wound, the shame, and the mistrust that goes with this story. Help us walk with our friends who are right in the middle of this dark vortex. Show us how to validate their feelings without confirming hurt-driven conclusions. Bring patience and perspective, forbearance and faith.

Only you can rebuild the trust. Only you, Jesus, can bring a willingness to hope again. Only you can heal the places in our hearts which have suffered the greatest violation and harm. Absolutely no one understands all this like you, Jesus, and absolutely no one redeem these messes but you. So very Amen, we pray, in your great and glorious name.

Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 7:21-8:2

January 29, 2011

I put out a call on Twitter for talented Christian graphic artists/designers today. If that’s you, give my Twitter a quick look. Artists or photographers may also be interested in contacting me…

CT 2011 Book Awards - Christianity Today has shared their annual book award winners. I don’t see any huge surprises on the list…

Why No One Reads Privacy Policies - You know those privacy policies you always agree to when you visit web sites? You never read them and neither do I. This infographic explains why.

Friendly Fire - Erik: “I don’t have the time to follow the blow by blow of what is going on all over contemporary Evangelicalism. I try to stay informed though. I do. However, now it is not only my time that is lacking but also my stomach.”

Birth Year Inflation - This is an interesting little diversion that will cost you a few minutes. It shows how much inflation has effected prices since your birth year.

The Theology of Adoption - Fred Sanders reviews Reclaiming Adoption: “This is a short (just over 100 pages), readable, popular-level introduction to the theology of adoption, and it is perfectly positioned at the intersection of the practical, the spiritual, and the doctrinal. It’s published by the innovative little publisher Cruciform Press, and I expect its sales will be driven by word of mouth through the orphan care network, and by the fact that it’s got a big ol’ classic John Piper chapter in it (Chapter 8: Adoption, The Heart of the Gospel).”

Apple Moves In On Your Wallet - This will be very interesting if true. This kind of payment system is far overdue.

Chris Medina - I haven’t watched American Idol for many years now. But I guess stories like this are part of what makes it so popular.

And finally, something to think about as you head to a worship service tomorrow:

In public worship all should join. The little strings go to make up a concert, as well as the great. —Thomas Goodwin

January 28, 2011

Free Stuff Fridays

Today’s Free Stuff Fridays sponsor is once again CBD Reformed. CBD Reformed is always giving away great prizes and today is no exception. Today they are even giving away a book that everyone wants but no one can find—Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith. Each of five winners will receive a package of 3 books that includes:

Here’s a description of The Christian Faith:

Prolific theologian Michael Horton’s highly anticipated The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on The Way represents his magnum opus and will be viewed as one of-if not the-most important systematic theologies since the final volume of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics.

Horton views this volume as “doctrine that can be preached, experienced, and lived, as well as understood, clarified, and articulated.” It is written for a growing cast of pilgrims making their way together towards Christ and will be especially welcomed by professors, pastors, students, and armchair theologians. Features of this volume include:

(1) a brief synopsis of biblical passages that inform a particular doctrine; (2) surveys of past and current theologies with contemporary emphasis on exegetical, philosophical, practical, and theological questions; (3) substantial interaction with various Christian movements within the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions, as well as the hermeneutical issues raised by postmodernity; and (4) practical tools for learning such as charts, sidebars, questions for discussion, and an extensive bibliography, divided into different entry levels and topics.

Additionally, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (January 28 – 31) on the following two products:

Anyone is free to take advantage of these special deals.

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

January 28, 2011

I realized yesterday that there are three kinds of stores that I am pretty much incapable of walking past without stopping in to check them out: bakeries, book stores and stationery stores. I just can’t help myself.

Facebook Makes us Sad - “Journalist Libby Copeland speculates that Facebook might ‘have a special power to make us sadder and lonelier.’ How can this be, though, when Facebook is generally so, well, happy, brimming with smiling faces and beautiful families? Well, that’s just the point.”

The Truth About Facebook - Speaking of Facebook, here’s a humorous look at the truth about Facebook.

Fifty Fruits of Pride - Here is a self-diagnostic that ought to warn you of the seriousness of pride.

Pastors, Seminary and Staff Requirements - This is an interesting study by Ed Stetzer. It shows that pastors value their own theological education very differently than they view the education of others.

What Are You Looking For? - Jonathan Leeman looks at some good reasons to look for a church (based on a book he wrote on that very thing).

The Bermuda Triangle of Productivity - Clever.

Bermuda Triangle

And finally, a quote that seems appropriate as we head into a weekend:

Recreation is not the highest kind of enjoyment, but in its time and place is quite as proper as prayer.S.I. Prime

January 27, 2011

The Lord has been forcing me to learn about prayer. And it’s a good thing since I’m finding myself in one of those times in life when prayer is coming only with difficulty. It was a blessing to attend a local pastors’ fellowship on Monday where I enjoyed a panel discussion about prayer and the pastoral ministry. And it was a blessing to record an interview this morning with Dr. Joel Beeke, a man who is known not only for writing books on prayer, but for being a man who loves to pray and who prays powerfully. (listen to the interview)

When discussing prayer, I find that there is always a lot of value in the little nuggets, the little pieces of gold that are encountered in conversation. While listening to an hour-long panel discussion on prayer, each person in the audience picked up on a few little things that impacted him. And the same was true in my conversation with Dr. Beeke.

I want to share with you just a few of the things that have been resonating in my mind.

Pray in Jesus’ name. To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray with his authority in a way that claims his power. In prayer I should always be asking, “In whose interest am I praying? What is God’s agenda in this?” In other words, I need to make sure that I have a conscience sense of praying to the Lord, the King, the Sovereign One. I pray not only to this God, but I also pray in his power and with his authority. That merits a “wow!”

Use model prayers. One of the best ways to learn to pray is to use the New Testament prayers as a model. The Apostle Paul always brings home what he has been teaching through his prayers. So learn these prayers, learn how they relate to the letters, and learn to pray them first for yourself. Let Paul be your teacher.

Pray within your capacity to believe. One pastor said that we often pray beyond our capacity to believe. He used the example of praying for the salvation of his wife’s parents. He and his wife would pray that the Lord would save them, but they were praying without faith; though they knew God could, in theory, do this, they doubted that he actually would. What they decided to do was to pray within their capacity to believe, and so they began to pray smaller, incremental prayers for things they truly could ask in faith. In a similar situation you might pray that the Lord would bring your parents just one Christian friend, or that they would hear the gospel just one time, and so on. And once that prayer is answered, you can then pray for the next, slightly bigger thing. All the while you are ratcheting up your prayers while acknowledging God’s incremental answers to them.

Do not stop praying until you get through to God. This pastor said that you need to labor in prayer until you feel that you have gotten through to God. He particularly warned against stepping into the pulpit and preaching before first gaining a sense of the Spirit’s presence and power. If the preacher cannot go into the pulpit in the power of the Spirit, how can he expect the Spirit to then speak to the people?

Prayer is better caught than taught. Do you want to know how to pray? Then spend time with people who pray and pray with them. Do you want your children to learn to pray? Then pray with them and let them catch the ability to pray. There are few shortcuts here.

Prayer changes us, not God. The purpose of prayer is not to change God, but to change us, to realign ourselves according to his purposes. Prayer is not an attempt to twist the arm of God or to bend him to our will. Instead, it is God’s means of changing and transforming us, driving us to joyfully submit to his will.

Pray warmly. Dr. Beeke asked what right anyone has to feel that he should be able to pray warmly out of the cold blue. If we want to enjoy warm fellowship in prayer, we should first be willing to spend time with the Lord in the Word and in meditation. This warms the heart and draws us to the Lord, igniting our prayer.


If you would like to hear the wisdom of these men, you don’t have long to wait. Audio from Toronto Pastors’ Fellowship will be available soon. My interview with Dr. Joel Beeke will be available here at the blog next Tuesday (Lord willing).